May 15 2011
The European dream of a continent without borders appeared dead last night. A majority of EU countries voted to reimpose passport controls between countries – in response to fears they would be deluged by refugees from the revolutions in the Arab world.
UK DAILY MAIL –(H/T Lee S) –15 out of the 22 EU countries who currently operate the Schengen Agreement said they would be in favour of its demise at a meeting of home affairs ministers in Brussels.
The treaty, signed in 1985 in the Dutch town of Schengen, created a European area with no internal borders which covers more than 400million people in most EU countries, as well as four others outside the bloc – Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.
The UK is not part of the system, but it could benefit from its end because the reimposition of passport controls could make it harder for illegal immigrants to find their way through Europe towards their final destination – Britain.
‘This is a good thing – it makes more sense to reinstate national borders so we can properly control immigration and organised crime. ‘And it means it should be much harder for illegal immigrants to get as far as Calais.’
At a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, interior ministers agreed to a ‘radical revision’ of Schengen. And they also agreed to combat immigration by pressing for ‘readmission accords’ with countries in the Middle East and North Africa to send refugees home.
The policy shift was pushed by France and Italy, two core EU members, which have borne the brunt of the influx so far. The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has even hinted towards a withdrawl from the Schengen Treaty. The move would spark travel chaos for anybody trying to pass into or through Swizerland en route from Italy to France and Germany or vice versa. Only four countries opposed the scrapping of the agreement.
Denmark has unilaterally decided to reinstate its borders with Sweden and Germany. Tens of thousands of migrants have arrived in Italy from Tunisia after the revolution there earlier this year.Most of them wanted to get to France, or perhaps beyond.
However, any changes would have to be passed by the European Parliament. The end to open borders would be a severe blow to the European ideal of free movement of citizens across the continent.